John Allen

Chairman, Founder, & CEO

John Allen is an internationally known expert in Continuous Process Improvement (CPI) systems and change management (including Lean and Six Sigma).  As a master lean Sensei, he has spent over twenty years as Chairman, CEO and founder of Total Systems Development, designing and conducting CPI training programs and implementing CPI systems throughout the world for the US Air Force and major multinational corporations. John’s knowledge and experience in lean extends particularly to the apparel and footwear business as reflected in his work with Nike, MAS Holdings and Brandix Lanka Limited.  Under John’s guidance, TSD brought each organization cultural transformation, improvements in quality, productivity, delivery time and cost, and a system for developing in-house expertise to sustain and extend those improvements.

Prior to starting TSD, John spent eight years at Toyota Motor Corporation, rising to the position responsible for all lean training at its first North American plant in Georgetown, Kentucky.  Here he acquired his singular insight into the culture as well as mechanics of lean, and this played an essential role in his later contribution, as TSD principal, to the early development of the Ford Production System (based upon the Toyota Production System) and Ford’s Cleveland engine plant winning the Shingo Prize for Manufacturing.

John has a depth of TPS knowledge only acquired thorough long-term employment, education and training at Toyota.  His Japanese training, significant professional achievements, and extensive experience designing, training, implementing and mentoring others in lean-CPI contribute to a system-wide level of understanding that is often sought after by such clients as the US Air Force, Nike, Terex Cranes, Panera Bread, Ford, DaimlerChrysler, Caterpillar, John Deere, University of Tennessee, and Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME).  John is an editor and contributing author to a 500-page lean reference work (Lean Manufacturing: A Plant Floor Guide, © TSD 2001, TSDbookpublished by SME and available at and, writer of numerous articles, and developer of a multitude of lean training materials. He is a lecturer on lean methods for SME throughout the globe as well as for the Korean Society of Standards in Seoul Korea.

Prior to his work at Toyota, John spent ten years with TRW, Inc., where he focused on strategic development and human resources management of a division-level business involved in the manufacturing of electronic components and equipment.


  • Toyota Production System
  • Organizational Development
  • Leadership Development
  • Standardized Work Development
  • Problem Solving
  • Change Management
  • Executive Coaching
  • Culture Change
  • Trainer Development
  • Lean Training & Certification

Professional Experience

Brandix Lanka Limited – John custom designed and provided multiple sessions of a 1-week lean leadership “boot camp” for over 60 Brandix executives.  Delivered in Lexington, KY, it included guest lectures, simulations, interactive
workshops, classroom sessions and tours of Toyota and other lean-based manufacturing sites.  This led to John’s role as Sensei in TSD’s current work designing and implementing a lean-based production system for Brandix in dozens of sites across Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh.

U.S. Air Force (USAF) – John’s reputation prompted his enlistment by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) to conduct, with several others, a service-wide best practices survey of process improvement activities within the Department of Defense logistics community.  This led to his role as one of the principal authors of the OSD CPI Transformation Guidebook.  This, in turn, led to his role as a significant contributor in the development of the Continuous Process Improvement methodology set forth in the US Air Force AFSO21 program.  In addition, he was principal author of the AFSO21 Playbook (the USAF interpreter of lean) and an original mentor to the Air Combat Command AFSO21 effort.  He participated in the evolution of the AFSO21 program as co-designer of the University of Tennessee Master Process Officer Certification Program, where he was mentor to the Special Operations Command and Air University. His work also included dedicated sessions on alignment, leadership and change management for decision-makers at USAF Headquarters.

Multifaceted Egyptian Holding Company – John was chief advisor to the owner and leader of an Egyptian holding company with a wide range of manufacturing interests.  His advice helped shape TSD’s multi-year lean training and implementation across 14 diverse facilities (e.g. appliances, electronics, fabricated stone, metals, plastics, glass, etc.).  John’s input influenced the level of leadership involvement, the pace of the implementation and the saving of millions of dollars.  In addition, he created and implemented the hoshin kanri process to bring alignment to the implementation over the course of the three-year contract.

International Shoe Mfg (Nike Asian Supplier Network) – After aligning and training executive leadership, John and the client collaborated to create comprehensive strategic multi-year plans and corporate charters to develop a client-focused proprietary version of lean-based production system.  John directed the plan with the TSD team and conducted metric-driven monitored training, implementation and mentoring activities at pilot sites in Vietnam, including corporate leadership training, VSA activities, Rapid Improvement Events and coaching sessions.  Methods and lessons learned were internalized, and the implementation process was successfully expanded to 12 more sites throughout Asia (China, Vietnam, Thailand, and Taiwan).  He also conducted change management & alignment, policy deployment (Hoshin Kanri) and leadership workshops for parent company executives. The results: $440 million in projected savings over four year period, installed lean-based production system in over 12 facilities, established an in-house process for perpetuating improvements, and created a centralized “learning academy” for supporting lean deployment.

International Apparel Mfg. (MAS Holdings (Private) Ltd.) – John co-developed client-focused proprietary version of lean-based production system to create strategic, multi-year lean implementation plan to move from pilot program to multi-site rollout throughout Sri Lanka.  He co-directed plan implementation with TSD team, conducted on-going corporate leadership training, implemented workshops and coaching sessions in Sri Lanka, in change management & alignment, policy deployment and leadership.

DaimlerChrysler  – John was responsible for strategic and plant-level planning of lean implementation at Greenfield (new) site in Brazil, including HR system development, succession planning, employee selection, policy deployment, management development, including change management and shop floor implementation of the Toyota Production System.

Ford Motor Company – John coached external consultants and internal employees assigned to the Vehicle Operations Division on the Ford Production System (FPS) methodology and acted as a consultant to the human resources function as they created the HR systems to support FPS and implemented a Toyota Production type system at all vehicle assembly operations worldwide.

Delphi Saginaw Steering Systems Division – John provided consultant executive leadership for the implementation of the Delphi production system at facilities in Saginaw, Michigan and Athens, Alabama resulting in a one year savings of over $28 million.  He presented implementation strategies to division leaders and coached division and plant executives in the resolution of issues concerning implementation. He coached the plant manager on the resolution of significant issues that were barriers to implementation and created systems to facilitate the implementation in conjunction with the labor union representatives.

Education & Certifications

MBA Business Management, University of Memphis, 1975

BSc, University of Kentucky, 1969

Harvard Strategic Management Program

Society fo Human Resource Management

American Society of Training and Development

Articles, Books & Speaking Engagements

  • Coeditor & Coauthor Lean Manufacturing: A Plant Floor Guide, © 2001 TSD
  • Coauthor OSD CPI Transformation Guidebook
  • Coauthor AFSO21 Playbook
  • Toyota Launch Experience, Book Chapter in Organizational Culture, Robert Moran, (c) 1989.
  • “Making Lean Manufacturing Work for You”, Manufacturing Engineering, June 2000
  • “Choosing the Right People”, Training & Development Journal, 1990
  • “Toyota’s Training”, Employment Relations Today, 1989
  • “Toyota’s Camry Plant Culture”, Employment Relations Today, 1988
  • Featured speaker at 2006 Shingo Prize Public Service Conference, “AFSO21 from the Beginning”
  • Keynote speaker at Soc. Mfg. Engineers Lean Manufacturing Conference, St. Louis, MO 1998
  • Featured speaker at SME’s FABTECH Int’l 2000, Cleveland
  • Featured Speaker TSD Spring Seminar: Executive Decision-Making for Lean Implementation, “Human Systems,” Lexington, KY May 18, 2000
  • Principal Expert & Lecturer in lean manufacturing for SME’s Lean Mfg. Educational Programs (1999 to 2009, including IMTS 2004)